Arizona High School Girls Learn about Orthopaedic Surgery at UA Health Sciences

Drilling through bones and sawing through casts, 40 high school girls from Arizona went from intimidation to power tool divas as the University of Arizona Health Sciences offered its medical expertise to empower and inspire future women surgeons.   

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is committed to diversity and inclusion and the development of strategies to address health disparities and to improve the diversity of the health-care workforce statewide and beyond. 

To create awareness and recruit women to pursue careers in health care, UAHS partnered with the Perry Initiative, a national organization that works to create a pipeline for women to pursue careers in engineering and orthopaedic surgery, to host a recent hands-on workshop for the Arizona high school.

Despite the increasing number of women entering medical and graduate school, women make up only 6.1 percent of fully accredited practicing orthopaedic surgeons, according to a 2014 survey by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. And only 12.4 percent of the faculty at engineering schools are women.

Working on a national level, the Perry Initiative recruits the students, organizes the event and provides the supplies for the day-long event. UAHS partnered to provide the orthopaedic expertise and surgery simulation and brought the Perry Initiative to the UAHS campus thanks to a grant awarded to Melissa Esparza, MD, a second-year resident at the UA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

While in medical school in California, Dr. Esparza, a Tucson native, learned about the Perry Initiative and jumped at the opportunity to bring it to UAHS. “It’s such a great opportunity to learn about these careers that many girls don’t get exposed to. I didn’t decide to go into orthopaedics until the very end of medical school – at a point when it was almost too late to pursue. Having an experience like the Perry Outreach Program would have given me the chance to see what an exciting field this is and solidified my decision to go into orthopaedic surgery earlier on,” Dr. Esparza said. 

In addition to Dr. Esparza, fellow resident Kimberly Franke, MD, who is in her third-year of orthopaedic residency, were joined by orthopaedic surgeons Jolene Hardy, MD, a sports medicine specialist and Parisa Morris, MD, a foot and ankle specialist, to provide the hands-on workshop. In addition, two engineering students from the University of Delaware led the discussion on engineering and activities for the day.

High school girls from Arizona learned how engineers and orthopaedic surgeons work hand-in-hand developing safe and effective implants to repair broken bones, torn ligaments and worn-out joints, while working to improve the performance of orthopaedic implants and create solutions to unmet needs.

During the event, the girls practiced putting casts on each other, learned how to suture wounds on pig’s feet, participated in a knee ligament reconstruction workshop and used drills, saws and other tools to perform several mock surgeries to fix fractured bone models.

The Perry Outreach Program, known as POP, is making an impact, showing 93 percent of girls who participate in the high school program go on to enroll in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors in college, with 56 percent of these young women intending to go to medical school.

The UA Health Sciences is looking to make the partnership an annual event. 

Release Date: 
03/21/2016 - 5:37am
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